Monday, March 16, 2015

Keija Parssinen's "The Unraveling of Mercy Louis"

Keija Parssinen attended Princeton University, where she studied English literature and received a certificate from the Program for the Study of Women and Gender. She earned her MFA at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote fellow, a Teaching and Writing fellow, and the student editor for the Iowa Short Fiction contest. After finishing the program, she won a Michener-Copernicus award for her debut novel, The Ruins of Us, which was published in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Italy and around the Middle East. The novel was long-listed for the 2012 Chautauqua Prize.

Here Parssinen dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis:
There’s something eerie and cinematic about the bayou, which is perhaps why so many movies and TV shows take it as a setting. HBO alone could keep the Louisiana film industry in business, with True Detective, True Blood, and Treme. My second novel, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis, is set in a Southeast Texas refinery town near the Louisiana border, so it shares a swampy atmosphere with those excellent and deeply weird shows. The story charts the downfall of the town’s golden girl, basketball star Mercy, after a harrowing discovery leaves the town reeling and ignites a witch hunt. I would love to see Mercy Louis adapted for the big or small screen, and here is my dream cast:

Mercy Louis: Rooney Mara would make an outstanding Mercy. Loved her in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, where she proved that she possesses the athleticism and badassery to play Mercy. Yet Mara’s also capable of balancing vulnerability alongside her toughness, a key trait in Mercy. And of course there’s the jet black hair. She’s the total package!

Illa Stark: Wallflower Illa dreams of befriending Mercy and watches her from afar. Emma Watson would do a great job. She’s smart, feminist, and waif-­‐like. It’s hard to imagine Watson capable of playing a wallflower (she was of course the opposite of that in Perks of Being a Wallflower!), but with her acting chops, combined with no make-­up and some ill-fitting clothes, I think she’d make an outstanding Illa.

Maw Maw: Mercy’s strict evangelical grandmother is physically frail yet emotionally hard, and she rules Mercy’s circumscribed world. I vote for Sissy Spacek. Stephen King’s Carrie reverberates through Mercy Louis, and it would be interesting to see Spacek play the controlling fundamentalist this time around, as opposed to the innocent pushed to the brink as she does in the 1976 movie adaptation of King’s novel.

Charmaine Boudreaux: Mercy’s mysterious mother abandoned her at birth, but she resurfaces at the start of the novel and plays an important role in the story. I’d vote for either Connie Britton or Kim Dickens, who both earned Texas cred in Friday Night Lights, and who do that drawl so well.

Annie Putnam: Mercy’s best friend, an intelligent, hard-­edged girl who uses sex to compensate for a loveless home life. The Jennifer Lawrence of American Hustle would be perfect—sexy, manipulative, terrifying and tragic.

Beau Putnam: Annie’s ruthless, politically ambitious father would be well-‐played by Matthew McConaughey, because no one does Texas sleeze quite like him. He’d have to gain weight and wear some platform shoes (Beau was a former linebacker for Texas A&M), but those are superficial details. McConaughey is the man for the job!
Visit Keija Parssinen's website.

Writers Read: Keija Parssinen.

--Marshal Zeringue